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It's the Patient Who Deserves Sympathy, Not the Mentor

July 26, 1999

The column July 19 by Dr. Claire Panosian Dunavan, "Puncturing the Surface of Pride," concerning her experience as a third-year medical student shocked at the emotional breakdown of her mentor following the death of a patient, certainly shocked me as well.

Dunavan described the patient as "an old man with lung cancer who had been deteriorating for weeks." What was especially frightening to me was that this "old man" was subjected to the pain and torment of a spinal tap procedure even though he was in such a horrible state that the procedure itself killed him.

Sure, Dunavan and her mentor had to go through what sounded like a terrible experience, but what about the patient? Sounds to me like an "old man" who was about to die in short order had that eventuality sped up a bit by a "mentor" and his student eager for a little extra training. I do not feel for the doctors in this case, only the patient and his family.

STEVE PARKER

Marina del Rey

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